The intention was to hike the way up to Morro do Sete and enjoy the view over to the Pico de Parana. After two and a half hours we gave up though we learned one more Portuguese word: barro – mud or clay.
With our shoes ankledeep in the same, that’s all there is to say about this.
The Tucum mountain belongs to the region of the Pico de Paraná – with 1800 meters Paraná’s highest – and allegedly offers a great view over the same.
Or so we were told by a couple on the way down who had spent the night on the mountain and woke up to a sunrise in the East and the full moon in the West.
By the time we reached the top of Tucum however, the Pico had firmly surrounded itself by clouds.
Maybe next time..
Turns out that the Morro do Anhangava is as close to Curitiba as the Morro do Canal and even easier to hike. As we were informed by the two rangers who sat by the parking lot, the fastest the entire hike has been done is 45 minutes.
With our almost 4 hours, we were very far from such a speed, also because there was no need to. What else was there to do on a sunny and moderately warm Saturday than to hike up, sit in the sunshine, chat with fellow hikers, enjoy the pick-nick and leisurely stroll down on the other side?
The Itupava trail is a historic path connecting the coast to the highlands of Paraná. For the best part of 200 years, right until 1873, it actually was the only one. Today, the traffic thunders along the highways and while a few hundred thousand Curitibanos choose to go this way to spend a long weekend on the beach, we picked the third of the three days to hike the old one.
The morning started early enough with a bus at 7:26 to the outskirts of the city Quatro Barras, and from there a taxi to the appropriately named Borda do Campo – the edge of the field. Or in our case: the forest.
The hike started easy and we made good progress while hoping for the fog to dissipate. Which it did around the same time that the proper, historic trail started: Stones, carried and laid by slaves almost 400 years ago. Slavery has fortunately long gone but the stones remain, polished by thousands of feed, burst through by trees, disappearing in mud, and grown over by moss.
While the nature in these areas is fantastic – we saw toucans, lots of other birds, frogs and the trees are each an ecosystem on their own – the trail itself is not very enjoyable. As we found out the hard way, the slippery stones offer little to no stable ground to walk on and the steep, downhill parts of the hike became quickly dangerous.
Being forced to descend carefully, it took us much longer than expected to cover the 16 km distance before we finally hit the gravel road again. This left us with an optimistic 25 minutes and still 2 km uphill to cover to the Marumbi train station where we had to catch our ride home. I was as pleased as exhausted when we made it.
All in all, was it worth doing the Itupava trail? Yes. Would I do it again? No.
When googling for hikes around Curitiba – fazer trilha – one of the first I came across was the Morro do Canal. Morro meaning as much as hill or top. At 1370 meters high, it’s the last top of the Marumbi mountain chain; or in other words, the closest to Curitiba, being within a mere 45 minutes drive.
Not knowing what expected us, we had invited a friend along. Luckily for us, this friend really loves hiking. While first part of the path is laid out extremely well, including via ferrata style iron chains and foot steps, the second part is slightly more adventurous.
OsmAnd served us again extremely well, indicating each, ever so slight, diversion of the trail. It also helped us to actually find the beginning of the second – longer- part, “It should be to the left here”; and there it was hidden behind some high grass. And, it made the decision ‘left or right’ easier whenever the blue little plastic band that was wrapped around branches, failed to show up at the decisive moment.
What OsmAnd hadn’t showed us, was the seven meter abseiling, secured only by two ropes. Let’s say that we managed and that I was happy that this would remain the only one. The rest was mainly finding our ways through the dense Atlantic rain forest, avoiding ankle-deep mud, snacking on bread and salami while enjoying the view, and generally being glad of having used sunscreen. In other words: A perfect 6 hour hike for a Sunday.
After deciding to leave Vila Velha and see if we could not make better use of our time and the weather elsewhere, we first drove into Ponta Grossa for a quick lunch and a glance on our map.
The close-by national park dos Campos gerais attracted our interest, especially the Buraco do Padre – the priest’s hole. 18 km on asphalted road and 5 on non-asphalted later, we parked our car on close to a field populated by some cattle.
The dry, spare landscape did its best to provide the perfect contrast to what was going to come. After some more meters across a lovely stream,
there was a sudden opening and already we found ourself at the bottom of a hole 30 meters wide and some 50 meters deep with a waterfall coming straight out of a golden spot.
A kind of magic not only because of its beauty. The way as well as the ground of the hole were clean, despite being an obviously popular location for a Sunday afternoon walk. I know that I’m sometimes very critical when it comes to the indiscriminate polution of common ground in Brazil. The more I was delighted to see this wonderful place, visited by many people who – by and large – are taking care of it.
or as it could be called: protecting nature from the people.
Vila velha is a small natural park about one hour northwest of Curitiba. Having seen the pictures online as well as the weather forecast, we decided to see it for ourselves.
If only that would be so easy. The first thing you have to do when arriving at the park, is to sit through a 10 minute video, explaining what there is to be seen and how a visitor should behave: no plugging out of plants, not carving your name into the stone, not leaving your trash behind, etc.
Knowing the behaviour and respect of nature of the average Brazilian visitor, unfortunately, this guidance is not as superfluous as it may seem to the average German one. What bothered us more was the fact that you cannot move around freely between the three sites of the park – the sandstone formations, the furnas and the golden lake – but have to take a little bus instead. This bus however has fixed hours. No going earlier but wait for your turn…
So after a nice stroll around the sandstone, we could have waited for one hour to be packed in bus with 40 people, to drive 4km across the park, to walk 400 meters to see two holes in the ground, walk 400 meters back, take the bus back, wait for another hour, get on another bus…
Sure those holes are impressive – to judge by the pictures – but we still preferred to jump in the car and try our luck elsewhere.
The secret to discovering Brazil is to enjoy driving. Or to spend time in over-night buses. Of course, you can take a plane. But a couple of hours flight won’t reveal as much about this country – or more precisely the tiny area we visited – as driving on the asphalted and non-asphalted roads will.
One of the first images that ingrains itself is the one of roads. Long, straight roads cut through a country of slight green hills covered by forests (occasionally) farm land (frequently) and cities & villages (frequently as well).
The next one is the sheer width. All we did, to understate the endeavor, was to cross one federal state: Parana. It’s by no means the biggest state but it still takes 7-10 hours. Belgium, in comparison can be crossed in 4 hours; and that is the longer extend including a traffic jam in Brussels.
The remaining though not last image is the beauty of the country and of the people. While the cities are concrete nightmares, outside of them, the dominating colour is green. Even the coast in Parana has been preserved quite well (one might add: so far) and is not disfigured by story buildings. Last but not least are the people. Wherever we went, people were friendly, showed us the way, and asked about the where, from & tos.
The feeling I had was indeed that Brazil is a country where many people have foreign roots and are curious to learn more about newcomers no matter if they are de passage or likely to stay.Though, it really does help to speak Portuguese in order to have those conversations in the first place as English is by no means wide spread.
The two weeks we had went by way too fast. No wonder with the 3000 km we spent on the road. But, it is the perfect way to discover a country in which, hopefully, I’ll have more time to spend.